30 Nov 2008 - Oslo (Viking Ship Museum), Norway
For me at least, the Viking Ship Museum is the highlight of any trip to Oslo, almost on a par with the Wasa in Stockholm. These Viking ships beat the Wasa into second place though because these represent a very different time in Europe and are almost 800 years older. Despite their great age, the ships and artifacts are in amazing condition. These Viking craft are extraordinarily well designed and constructed and were the mode of transport for some of the great migrations in the early middle ages. These ships were the type of craft that transported William the Conqueror's army from Normandy to England to beat Harold at Hastings. They carried Vikings abroad to trade, settle and raid churches and towns.
The museum is currently situated next to the Norwegian Folk Museum so if you get here early enough then you will be able to cover both attractions in one go.
Oslo - Viking Ship Museum
The Viking Ship Museum (in Norwegian Vikingskipshuset - The Viking Ship House) houses the Viking ships from Tune, Gokstad, and Oseberg. The museum displays the Viking Age Oseberg ship, Gokstad ship, Tune ship, and finds from the Borre mound cemetery and elsewhere.
In addition to the three ships, the museum contains a good exhibit on the Vikings.
Oslo - Viking Ship Museum - Osberg ship I
This ship was buried in 834 AD and is festooned on prow and stern with elaborate dragon and serpent carvings. It measures 22m and required 30 oarsmen. The burial chamber held the largest collection of Viking Age artefacts ever uncovered in Scandinavia but had been looted of all jewellery.
In the viking age it was customary to bury the dead in boats. the dead would be placed in a burial chamber on the ship.
Oslo - Viking Ship Museum - Osberg ship II
The dead were placed with food and drink, horses and dogs, and useful and decorative items. Most graves are found to have been robbed but the ship found in Sutton Hoo is unique in that this grave was not looted and many of its treasures are now in a museum.
The Viking age lasted from about 800 AD to 1050 AD and during this period the Norsemen were the lords of the seas. They roamed as far as North America, Iceland, Greenland and the Mediterranean and Black Sea.
Oslo - Viking Ship Museum - Bow carvings, Osberg ship
It's amazing to think that these intricate carvings have survived almost 1200 years buried in the ground.
Some Norsemen settled in Northern France in what is called Normandy. The locals called these Normans, derived from their name of Norsemen.
Oslo - Viking Ship Museum - Unearthing the Osberg ship
This old photo shows the Osberg ship being excavated. I included this to show that the intricate wood carvings that can be seen on this ship are actually the original markings as I did wonder just how much of the ship has been recreated. It seems that the answer is 'not very much'.
Oslo - Viking Ship Museum - Stern view of the Osberg ship
The 22m long ship was built of oak. The number of oar holes indicate that it was rowed by a crew of 30 men. There were no seats so the oarsmen probably sat on their own wooden ship's chests. The oars could be drawn in when the square sail was raised. Only the upper two rows of side planking extended above the water line. It is thought that this would have been used for short journeys in calm waters.
Oslo - Viking Ship Museum - Gokstad ship
The sturdier 24m long Gokstad was built around 890 AD and is the finest remaining example of a Viking longship. Unlike the Oseberg, the burial chamber had been completely looted and few artefacts were uncovered.
Oslo - Viking Ship Museum - Bow of the Gokstad ship
This, the largest of the ships, had room for 32 oarsmen. The side planking of this ship is higher and when sailing the oar holes could be sealed. This ship would have been capable of sailing the high seas.
Oslo - Viking Ship Museum - Tune ship
The Tune ship contained a high ranking male but unfortunately this and the grave gifts have not survived due to the poor preservation conditions. Like the Gokstad ship, the Tune also dates from around 900AD.
Oslo - Viking Ship Museum - Ship burial chamber
Each of the Viking ships had a wooden burial chamber such as this that was located on the deck, behind the mast. These tent like structures have been postulated to resemble the tents used on land. Real tents were also found aboard the ships.
Oslo - Viking Ship Museum - Objects for the afterlife
This fantastically well preserved cart has detailed and ornate carvings like the ships. It boggles the mind to think how old this is yet to be able to see the incredible detail as readily now as when the first eyes came to rest on it in 900AD.
Oslo - Viking Ship Museum - Animal head post I
The most stunningly detailed carvings which have survived are these animal head posts. They were all found with the ship from the Osberg burial.
Oslo - Viking Ship Museum - Animal head post II
Three different artists created these posts and this can be told by recognised by both stylistic and technical details. So I'm told.
Oslo - Viking Ship Museum - Animal head post III
The posts were orignally equipped with a short, horizontal handle so that they could be carried in processions or secured to a wall.
Oslo - Viking Ship Museum - Sledge for the afterlife
Three highly decorated sledges were found in the Oseberg ship. Each was constructed the same way: a separate upper frame tied to the chassis with rope. The corner posts, shaped as animal heads, bind the sides of the frame. A detachable pole allowed the sledge to be drawn by two horses.